21 places that could really do with not being part of Greater London

Happy Valley, near Coulsdon, which really doesn't make me very happy at all. Image: GanMed64/creative commons.

Greater London is a big beast. It’s 606sq miles, and has 32 boroughs and the City of London. The Greater London Authority runs it from City Hall in Southwark, and like all decent cities it has a mayor, Sadiq Khan.

What it also has – which doesn’t seem to fit its proud city status – is a load of random fields, farms, and tiny villages that really don’t need to be there.

There are plenty of perfectly good counties all around the place that could take these chunks of land and do something with them, while real London could get on with its important business of, you know, actually being a city.

Here, in a torrent of unashamed bitterness, are 21 of those places.

1) North Ockenden, Upminster

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

Look at all that green. It’s the wrong side of M25, for a start, and it’s the most easterly and most outlying settlement in Greater London (as rightly measured by distance from Charing Cross). Somebody in 1992 had the bright idea of giving everything east of the M25 to Essex, but a bunch of NIMBYs said no, obviously, and so here we are.

2) Puddledock Farm Fisheries, Upminster

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

These guys run fishing matches on ‘the Snake Lake’ every Sunday, so that’s nice. There are four lakes – including a purpose built competition lake, a specimen lake, and a peg lake. Whatever any of that means. All I’m seeing is a whole lot of green and a whole lot of wrong side of the M25.

3) Fairlop Plain, Barkingside

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This is Redbridge, so it’s not even one of the hard-core, middle-of-nowhere boroughs, and yet here we are. There’s a tube station right next to a huge load of random green, including (but not limited to) a Country Park, a golf course, a large lake, another golf club, and a whole load of empty fields. Honestly. Three tube stations in one screenshot and a whole load of green. Immoral.

4) Turkey Brook and Clay Hill, Enfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Ignoring the Museum of Transport up in the top left – everyone loves a museum of transport – this is just a whole load of green countryside that does not need to be in London.

5) Botany Bay, Enfield Chase

Lovely and green. Image: Christine Matthews/creative commons.

Get back to Sydney where you belong, and stop being so ridiculous, Enfield. It’s about a mile away from the nearest train station, and it has a farm shop. This is not the future liberals want.

6) Trent Park, Enfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

If there were a triple lock designed to annoy CityMetric readers as much as the real one annoys the youth, this one has it. It’s in the Green Belt, lies within a conservation area, and also gets a spot in the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. This sounds like a lovely place, but it’s just empty fields from here to the M25 and beyond into Hertfordshire, so why not just give them the thing.

7) The road between Totteridge and Highwood Hill

Not London. Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This stretch of winding road has acres and acres of green space on either side, and has a pretty open path out to the countryside of Hertfordshire. What need for it to be in London?

8) Hill End, Hillingdon

I've always wanted to live in a big city like London. Image: Nigel Cox/creative commons.

Part of a charming park – the Colne Valley Regional Park – that really doesn’t need to be in London, and is a 57-minute trudge away from the nearest train station, Rickmansworth on the Metropolitan line. Or if you want to be in Zone 6, it’s an hour and ten to walk to Northwood. Your choice.

9) Malden Rushett, near Epsom

The long shadow of urbanisation. Image: Nigel Cox/creative commons.

You know that bit where London pokes out to the south west, like an accusatory pointing finger? It’s the Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, and I’d always assumed there was something important there that needed to be included in Greater London. But no. There’s just this village. It even has a sad dribble of a railway line that they started building south of Chessington South station, on the branch line from Motspur Park, before the Green Belt was introduced and they realised that there was no point taking the line any further south. Thanks, Green Belt. You gave us this pointless village on the udder of London.

 

10) Happy Valley & The Devil’s Den, Coulsdon

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

I’m not happy about the fact that this is in the Borough of Croydon when it could just as easily be in Surrey.

 

11) Kings Wood, near Warlingham

Look at the density of that wood. Crazy.

 

12) Addington Hills, Addington

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Swathes and swathes of countryside, green things, and another golf course. What is it with all the golf courses.

 

13) Layhams Farm, Layhams Cattery, and the Metropolitan Police Dog Training Establishment, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Not making any of this up.

 

14) Shepherds Shaw, Tatsfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

So many fields, so little need to be in the urban area of Greater London.

 

15) Buckhurst, near Biggin Hill

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Most Londoners wouldn’t know what to do with this much green even if you put it in a bag of toasted kale chips and charged four quid for it.

16) Horns Green, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

A trio of charming villages here.

17) Berry’s Green, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

I know it’s not good to quote from Wikipedia, but the entry here is too good. It's apparently “a fairly wooded rural area with a scattering of farmland”.

18) Downe, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

Charles Darwin lived here, and that’s it. That’s literally all they’ve got.

19) Hockenden, near Swanley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This *hamlet* isn’t even on a bus route.

20) Rainham Marshes

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Drain the swamp, drain the swamp, drain the swamp.

21) Hacton, Havering

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Surrounded by the – you guessed it – green belt.


Of course the alternative to chucking all of these places out of Greater London would just be to build some bloody houses on them, but let’s not push the boat out too far. 

Jack May is a regular contributor to CityMetric and tweets as @JackO_May.

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To beat rising temperatures, Vienna launches a network of 'Cool Streets'

A Vienna resident cools off at one of the city's new Cool Streets installations. (Courtesy Christian Fürthner/Mobilitätsagentur Wien)

Over the past several months, Austria has recorded its highest unemployment rate since World War II, thanks to the economic aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. With no job or a suddenly smaller income – not to mention the continued threat of the virus – many Viennese will opt for a staycation this summer.  

At the same time, last year, Austria’s capital experienced 39 days with temperatures of over 30°C (86°F), one of its hottest summers in history according to the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics.

Climate experts expect a similarly sizzling 2020 season, and city officials are now doubling down on efforts to combat the heat by launching a “Cool Streets” initiative as well as a new, state-of-the-art cooling park.

“As the city councilwoman in charge of climate, it is my job to ensure local cooling,” Vienna’s deputy mayor Birgit Hebein proclaimed at the opening of one of 22 new “Cool Streets” on 22 June.

“In Austria, there are already more heat deaths than traffic fatalities,” she added.

Hebein was referring to the 766 people the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Security included in its 2018 heat-associated mortality statistics. The number was up by 31% compared to 2017, and in contrast to the 409 people who died in traffic collisions the same year.

The project includes 18 temporary Cool Streets located across the city, plus four roads that will be redesigned permanently and designated as “Cool Streets Plus”.

“The Plus version includes the planting of trees. Brighter surfaces, which reflect less heat, replace asphalt in addition to the installation of shadow or water elements,” said Kathrin Ivancsits, spokeswoman for the city-owned bureau Mobilitätsagentur, which is coordinating the project.


Vienna's seasonal Cool Streets provide shady places to rest and are closed to cars. (Petra Loho for CityMetric)

In addition to mobile shade dispensers and seating possibilities amid more greenery provided by potted plants, each street features a steel column offering drinking water and spray cooling. The temporary Cool Streets will also remain car-free until 20 September.

A sensor in the granite base releases drinking water and pushes it through 34 nozzles whenever the outside temperature reaches 25°C (77°F) . As soon as the ambient temperature drops to 23°C (73°F), the sensor, which operates from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., turns off the water supply.

The sensors were included in part to allay concerns about legionella, a pathogenic bacteria that can reproduce in water.  

“When the spray stops, the system drains, and therefore no microbial contamination can develop,” said Dr. Hans-Peter Hutter, deputy head of the Department of Environmental Health at the Center for Public Health at Medical University Vienna, in a televised interview.

Hutter also assured the public that there is no increased risk of a Covid-19 infection from the spray as long as people adhere to the one-meter social distance requirement.


But Samer Bagaeen of the University of Kent's School of Architecture and Planning notes that air cooling systems, like the ones used in Germany at abattoirs, have been found recently to be a risk factor for Covid-19 outbreaks.

“The same could be said for spay devices,” he warned.

Vienna’s district councils selected the 22 Cool Street locations with the help of the city’s Urban Heat Vulnerability Index. The map shows where most people suffer from heat by evaluating temperature data, green and water-related infrastructure, and demographic data.

“Urban heat islands can occur when cities replace the natural land cover with dense concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat,” as the US Environmental Protection Agency states.


A rendering of Vienna's planned park featuring a Coolspot, which is scheduled to open in August. Click to expand.
(Courtesy Carla Lo Landscape Architecture)

Vienna’s sixth district, Mariahilf, is such an area. The construction of the capital’s first “Cooling Park”, a €1 million project covering the 10,600 square-metre Esterházypark, is designed to provide relief. 

Green4Cities, a centre of excellence for green infrastructure in urban areas, designed the park’s main attraction, the “Coolspot”. The nearly 3.40-metre high steel trellis holds three rings equipped with spray nozzles. Textile shading slats, tensioned with steel cables, cover them.

The effects of evaporation and evapotranspiration create a cooler microclimate around the 30 square-metre seating area, alongside other spray spots selectively scattered across the park.

The high-pressure spray also deposits tiny droplets on plant and tree leaves, which stimulates them to sweat even more. All together, these collective measures help to cool their surroundings by up to six degrees.

The landscape architect Carla Lo and her team planned what she calls the “low-tech” park components. “Plants are an essential design element of the Cooling Park,” Lo says. “By unsealing the [soil], we can add new grass, herbaceous beds, and more climate-resistant trees to the existing cultivation”.

Light-coloured, natural stone punctuated by grass seams replaces the old concrete surfaces, and wooden benches meander throughout the park.

Living near the park and yearning for an urban escape close by, Lo says she’s motivated to ensure the park is completed by mid-August.

“If we don't do anything, Vienna will be another eight degrees Celsius hotter in 2050 than it already is,” Hebein said.

Vienna recently came in first in the World's 10 Greenest Cities Index by the consulting agency Resonance.

“There is no one size fits all on how cities respond to urban heat,” says the University of Kent’s Bagaeen, who points out that Vienna was one of the first European cities to set up an Urban Heat Islands Strategic Plan in 2015.

In the short term, prognoses on the city’s future development may be more difficult: Vienna votes this autumn.

Petra Loho is a journalist and photographer based in Austria.